Wizards at All-Star weekend

By: Joe Pohoryles

Starting tonight and going through Sunday, the 2020 NBA All-Star weekend will take place in Chicago, and while no one on the Wizards made the All-Star team — namely Bradley Beal — there are a few who will be taking part in the weekend’s festivities.

Beal missed the cut despite posting averages of 29.1 points, 6.2 assists and 4.4 rebounds per game. 29.1 points per game is the highest scoring average all-time among players who didn’t make the All-Star Game, and after making it each of the past two seasons, it’s fair to wonder why Beal did not make the cut this year.

The East backcourt players that were All-Stars this year instead of Beal were Kemba Walker, Trae Young, Ben Simmons and Kyle Lowry. Only Young averages more points than Beal with 29.7 per game, but scoring is not the only deciding factor.

All four players who made it over Beal play in major media markets — Boston, Philadelphia, Atlanta and Toronto, respectively — so while all four are great players in their own merits, it certainly helps that they all play for big-time teams with loyal fan bases. Washington, D.C. is a major media market in its own right, but the Wizards are not a marquee team that gets a ton of prime time spots, so Beal has missed out on some of the national spotlight.

That said, Beal is still a well-known player across the league, and his stats are good enough to be an All-Star, but another issue is that the Wizards are low in the league standings. Walker is leading a strong Celtics team; Philly has its issues but should make the playoffs comfortably, and Lowry and Toronto could certainly make another deep playoff run. In Young’s case, the Atlanta Hawks are struggling, but his numbers just pop off the page, and his popularity takes him over the top.

Of the four East backcourt players, I would say Beal probably should have made it over Lowry, but there is a case for both sides, and Beal just happened to be the odd man out.

While Beal’s presence will be missed on Sunday, there are a few Wizards who will represent DC tonight and tomorrow. Rui Hachimura and Moe Wagner will be participating with Team World in the Rising Stars challenge tonight, and Dāvis Bertāns will take on some of the hottest shooters in the league during the Three-Point Contest.

While Memphis’ Ja Morant is leading in the rookie of the year race, and Dallas’ Luka Dončić looks like an MVP contender, Hachimura and Wagner have more subtly proven to be among the league’s best young players. Hachimura averages 13.9 points and 6.0 rebounds this season. He is third among rookies in rebounds per game behind Zion Williamson and Eric Mika, though Williamson has played just 10 games, and Mika has played just one. Hachimura has played 30.

Wagner is averaging 11.3 points and 5.7 rebounds in his second NBA season. Those numbers are up from 4.8 points and 2.0 rebounds per game last season. It will be interesting to see how both Wizards fare in this game, depending on the amount of playing time they receive.

Bertāns, meanwhile, will be in the running for the Three-Point crown. Beal was the last Wizard to participate in 2018. Beal also participated in 2014, where he finished second to Marco Bellinelli in a contest that went down to the wire. This will be Bertāns’ first appearance in the Three-Point Contest, and he will attempt to be the second player in franchise history to win the event (Tim Legler won in 1996).

Of the eight participants, Bertāns has the second-highest three-point percentage behind Duncan Robinson of the Miami Heat. Ironically enough, those two are the lowest profile players in the field, indicating they made the contest based purely on performance.

Three-point percentages among contestants:

Duncan Robinson: 43.8%

Dāvis Bertāns: 42.4%

Joe Harris: 40.8%

Buddy Hield: 38.5%

Zach LaVine: 38.5%

Devonte’ Graham: 37.4%

Trae Young: 36.9%

Devin Booker: 35.8%

Three-point percentages don’t matter so much in this contest, as they are all professional basketball players who shoot the ball very well, and all it takes is for one guy to get hot.

Harris and Booker, who replaced the injured Damian Lillard, are the winners of the past two contests. Experience in the contest certainly helps, so it should be fun to watch both sharpshooters face-off after recent success in this event.

There is another All-Star weekend contest champion in the mix, but his hardware comes from a different event. LaVine, a two-time Slam Dunk champion, will try to add a Three-Point championship to his trophy case. LaVine falls in a similar boat as Beal when it came to All-Star voting, where he put up strong numbers, but with a lowly team in the Chicago Bulls.

Rounding out the rest of the field is Young (who can pull up from just about anywhere), Graham (a rising star in Charlotte), and Hield (one of the few bright spots in Sacramento).

It should be a fun one to watch, especially compared to the Slam Dunk Contest. Once the headlining event, the Dunk Contest seems to be getting more and more underwhelming every year. 2016 featured an all-time great showdown between LaVine and Aaron Gordon, who will be competing again this year, but it has yet to reach similar heights in the past few years.

For the first time since 2013, no one will be representing Washington in the main event on Sunday, but there is still ample opportunity to support a few Wizards earlier in the weekend.

(Cover Photo Credit: NBC Sports Washington)

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